A plaster cast by Thomas Woolner for the National Museum Wales

1. Thomas Woolner (1825 - 1892)
Heavenly Welcome, 1865-1867
Patinated plaster -
131 x 66 x 22cm
Cardiff, National Museum Wales
Photo : National Museum Wales

20/06/10 – Acquisitions – Cardiff, National Museum Wales – In a recent news item on “acceptance in lieu” donations, we had mentioned the acquisition of a painted plaster cast by Burne-Jones at the National Museum Wales. Since then, three remarkable works have joined the collections.

The most important one is a bronze model for the monument in memory of Miss Ellen Peel and her son, located in the church of Saint Gilles in Wrexham, for £10,100 (before charges) [1] at Sotheby’s London, on 2 June 2009. It was commissioned by Archibald Peel in 1863 [2] from his friend, the sculptor Thomas Woolner.
The artist chose to represent the moment when the deceased arrive in Heaven. The group, with the child embracing his mother in deep contemplation, contrasts with the angel which, devoid of wings, recalls the feminine figures of the Florentine Quattrocento (Botticelli, Lippi) and confers a pagan touch to this religious ensemble. All of the elements characteristic of Woolner’s art are revealed here, notably his fondness for poetry and pathos (he was a founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood), as well as attention to detail and realism [3]. According to his biographer [4], this is his most beautiful monument.

Woolner is represented mostly in British collections by his portraits, notably at the National Portrait Gallery and many public buildings (Wallington House, Trinity College at Cambridge). Indeed, his fame is due largely to this genre [5], to the point of eclipsing his monuments (Tomb of Constance and Arthur Fairbairn, Monument to Edwin Landseer…). This acquisition therefore is a tribute to this work and a perfect addition to the Victorian collection at the National Museum Wales.

2. Hugh Douglas Hamilton (1736 - 1808)
Sir Watkin William 4th baronet, and his
wife Charlotte Williams Wynn
, 1772
Pastel - 23.5 x 19.5 cm (each)
Cardiff, National Museum Wales
Photo : National Museum Wales

The other acquisitions are two pastels by Hugh Douglas Hamilton [6], representing respectively Sir Watkin William 4th baronet, and his wife Charlotte Williams Wynn. This couple played an important role in Irish artistic life. Sir Watkin had acquired an important collection of old master paintings and often commissioned pieces from contemporary artists as well. These two works are the first to join the museum by this artist, reflecting the institution’s policy to highlight the figures and events associated with Welsh history. Of an intimate character, the two pastels are an interesting complement to the large formats by Reynoldsand Batoni.

Caroline Guibert, dimanche 20 juin 2010


[1] With a contribution of £7,413 from the Grand Fund.

[2] Date of Miss Ellen Peel’s death.

[3] Woolner visited his friend, Archibald Peel, at his home to find inspiration in his wife’s portraits.

[4] Thomas Woolner R.A Sculptor and Poet, his Life in Letters, AMS Presse, 1971. Cf : Lettre 242.

[5] He became famous during a trip to Australia where he produced sculptures of famous figures there.

[6] For a total of £12,633 with a contribution of £20 from the Grand Fund.

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